Our notion of a vampire with a Transylvanian accent and castle to match owes its debt to the multitude of film versions based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. The vampire myth, however, existed in ancient Greece and Rome, Assyria, Babylon, China, Tibet, North Africa, Nepal, North and South America, Malaysia, Australia--in short, almost everywhere. The pervasiveness of the vampire myth may have something to do with the universal association of life rituals with blood, with the fear of dying, and until recently, the fear of being buried alive. Undeniably the allure of the vampire has been--and in the case of our time, still is--erotic. In most vampire tales the victims are liberated by the vampire into a freedom that is undeniably sexual. The vampire is a former mortal who not only has become a monster, but is able to induct other humans into the vampire family.


Punch, "The Irish 'Vampire.'" Volume 89. October 24, 1885. Here, the Irish revolutionary Charles Parnell, transformed into a vampire bat, menaces the lovely and helpless figure of Ireland. Attempts to liberate Ireland from English rule are depicted here as monstrous and predatory, draining Ireland of her strength and ultimately, her humanity.

The Vampyre; a tale. By John William Polidori. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1819. The Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Novels. This tale was also published in the New Monthly Magazine in April 1819, where the publisher attributed it to Byron. Byron repudiated the tale and Polidori claimed authorship. The Vampyre of the title is a Gothic hero, taken to extremes of cruelty. Here is our first glimpse of Polidori's creation:
"he gazed upon the mirth around him, as if he could not participate therein. Apparently, the light laughter of the fair only attracted his attention, that he might by a look quell it, and throw fear into those breasts where thoughtlessness reigned...[S]ome attributed it to the dead grey eye, which, fixing upon the object's face, did not seem to penetrate, and at one glance to pierce through to the inward workings of the heart."

Dracula. By Bram Stoker. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1819. First edition. The Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Novels. Stoker's vampire tale is undoubtedly the most influential vampire story of all time. In his novel, Stoker creates a truly Satanic and nearly invincible fiend, who can only be defeated by the doctor and occultist Van Helsing. Stoker's biographer, Harry Ludlam, tells us that Stoker's inspiration came from a dream in which he saw "a vampire king rising from the tomb to go about his ghastly business." This dream was reportedly brought on "from a too-generous helping of dressed crab at supper." It was the dream that led Stoker to research extensively Balkan vampire legends, basing Dracula upon Vlad Tepes the Impaler, a fifteenth-century Transylvanian ruler also known as "Dracula," or, "Son of the Devil."

Letter, dated September 7, 1871. The Special Collections Department. J. Sheridan Le Fanu discusses the copyright for a ballad poem.

In a Glass Darkly. By J Sheridan Le Fanu. London: 1947. Alderman Library. This collection of tales includes Carmilla, a tale of female vampiricism which anticipated by thirty years Bram Stoker's Dracula. J. Sheridan Le Fanu was born to Anglo-Irish parents. He trained in law, but never practiced, preferring instead to acquire and edit such publications as The Dublin University Magazine, The Warden and The Protestant Guardian. He published a number of tales anonymously. Literary historians will probably never be able to credit to him all of these tales. In a Glass Darkly was published in 1872, one year before his death. Carmilla is narrated by a young woman, Laura, who is viisted by a dream image, Camilla. Camilla is also Countess Millarca Karnstein, a vampire. Carmilla is eventually vanquished after claiming several female victims.

Statuette. Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Commissioned by Lugosi, cast, and given to several of his closest friends. Lent by Forrest J. Ackerman, Hollywood, CA.


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